TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A four-run fifth inning propelled the River City Rascals to a 5-4 victory over the Traverse City Beach Bums in the first game of their series. The Rascals (8-7) once again relied on Josh Silver at the plate, who contributed four of the five River City runs. The Beach Bums (6-9) snapped a three-game winning streak after they were unable to hold an early 3-0 lead or solve what has been a solid Rascals bullpen.
It was deja vu in the early going for River City as they were staring down the barrel of a deficit in Traverse City like they were for much of the Frontier League Championship Series last September. Ryan Bottger smacked a leadoff double to right on the second pitch from Rascals starter Joe Scanio and scored two batters later on a single by Jose Vargas. The Beach Bums tacked on two more runs in the third with a trio of doubles. Things got started with another leadoff double to right, this time by nine-hitter Jeff DeBlieux, who scored on a double two batters later by Will Kengor, who scored on a double two batters later by Steven Patterson.
Scanio retired the next 12 Traverse City Batters, which allowed the Rascals to make their move.
As has often been the case with the Rascals this season, the offense started at the bottom. Eight-hitter Mike Jurgella led off with a walk. After a strikeout, Dominique Taylor and Johnny Morales both singled to load the bases for the Frontier League’s best hitter, Josh Silver. Silver lived up to his title, stroking a bases-clearing triple to right to tie the game 3-3. Veteran DH Josh Ludy scored him with a single back up the middle to take the lead.
The Rascals tacked on a much-needed insurance run in the top of the seventh with a Clint Freeman single scoring Morales from third after he was advanced by a Silver sac bunt.
Scanio pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season and got the first two outs of the inning before giving up a double and being lifted for a reliever. That double ended up scoring, but the bullpen held from there giving Scanio his second win of the year on a line of four earned runs on six hits in 6.2 innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
River City Manager Steve Brook appears to have found his lockdown bullpen formula. Part of the model for the ideal modern baseball team is to shorten the game as much as possible with a reliable back end of the bullpen i.e. the Royals. The Rascals seem to have their own potential three-headed monster in Lucas Laster, Nick Kennedy, and Zac Treece. On Tuesday, Kennedy pitched a flawless eighth before giving way to Treece who struck out the side in the ninth to get his fourth save. Of River City’s eight wins, Treece has finished off six of them. Laster was less than his normal near-perfect self against the Beach Bums, allowing an inherited runner to score before getting the only out he needed to finish the seventh for Scanio. However, Laster and Treece both have sub-1.00 ERAs having only relinquished one earned run a piece in ten innings so far this season. Laster got two starts before transitioning to the bullpen during the last series. Kennedy’s ERA is a comparatively gargantuan, but still paltry 2.89.
The Beach Bums will look for revenge Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. EDT with Rob Blanc (0-1, 9.00 ERA) taking on Zeb Sneed (0-1, 3.76 ERA).
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